A lecturer at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia,Prof. Peter Okocha, has called for the development of new crop varieties that could resist the harsh effects of climate change.
Okocha made the call in Umuahia while delivering lecture entitled “Gene: the Engine that Drives Plant Breeding’’ at the 32nd inaugural lecture of the university.
He said the effects of climate change and the poor performance of existing crop varieties made it imperative for the call for the development of new crop varieties.
“We are at the brink of a new era that may have very drastic consequences for us as a people if we fail to wake up from our slumber,’’ he said.
Okocha, a specialist in plant breeding and seed production, also said urgent step was required to bring up high resistance plants against climate change.
He said the successful application of classical plant breeding was responsible for the numerous achievements in the development of new and high yielding crop varieties worldwide.
“The successful application of plant breeding led to the green revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s recorded in Asian and Latin American countries.
“It was only Africa that failed to attain green revolution.’’
Okocha, however, said Nigeria must identify donors of useful genes to be able to tackle the effects of climate change on plants.
He said the development of improved crop varieties would boost government’s efforts at achieving food security and poverty reduction.
Okocha further said the research had identified “high-yielding genotypes’’ with useful genes for the development of low-input rice varieties.
“The identification of genotypes which could give high yields under low-input management conditions, showed that it is possible to develop low-input rice varieties from the present high-input ones and breeding lines,’’ he said.
The Don also said the research helped in the development of low-input management protocol and identification of donors of useful genes for resistance and tolerance breeding.
According to him, low-input rice varieties will enhance increased rice production by sustaining high yield as well as reducing cost of production.
He said result of current research on rice, wheat, sweet potato and okra in the country showed that the nuclear gene controlled the character of the variety.
The university lecturer called for adequate funding of researches as well as the purchase of the state-of-the-art equipment for the university to ensure meaningful research result.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Francis Otunta, expressed satisfaction with the turn of events in the university, adding that the institution was now dwelling more on researches.
Otunta expressed the confidence that the country in no distance future would compete with leading rice producing nations, if findings of the present research was deployed in rice production.
He, therefore, urged government at all levels to see funding of researches as priority development template.